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SC and ST Act: The Nation on fire

On 20th March, Supreme Court diluted the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The nation is in chaos ever since.

People belonging to the Dalit community shout slogans as they burn an effigy depicting India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a nationwide strike called by Dalit organisations, in Amritsar, India, April 2, 2017. REUTERS/Munish Sharma - RC14B9622EF0

SC and ST groups across the country have taken to the streets. They declared a “Bharat Bandh” in response to the alleged “dilution” of the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. The Supreme Court on March 20, 2018, banned automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the legislation which seeks to protect members of scheduled castes and tribes against discrimination and abuse.

What did the SC say on 20th March 2018?

According to court’s directive on 20th March, coercive action against the public servants, accused of hostility towards the lower caste, can only be taken with written permission from their appointing authority. For private citizens accused for the same crime, arrest can be made only after the Senior Superintendent of Police concerned allows it.

The intention of this ruling was to decrease the ‘blackmail’ innocent public servants and private individuals to wreck personal vendetta or serve vested interests.

In short, this decision diluted the Act and made it more stringent though the intention was to check the misuse.

Bharat Bandh

Till now, 12 people lost their lives across the nation due to the outrage. Schools and colleges shall remain closed due to the violence.

Image Source: Live Hindustan

The CBSE postponed its 10th and 12th class exam in Punjab, which were on 2nd April, till further notice.

Jet Airways waives off the penalties for date or flight change on all confirmed tickets amid the violent protests across the nation.

“We are closely monitoring the situation in the wake of Bharat bandh protests,” a spokesperson of Home Ministry said.

In an official statement, DIG, Law & Order, Uttar Pradesh said, “There’ll be an inquiry on people spreading rumors on Social Media. Detained 448 people for legal action.”

Political Crossfire

Image Source: Google

Chief Minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal said the fundamental intent of the Act should be preserved. He demanded that the Center appoint prominent lawyers to effectively take up the matter in the Supreme Court.

Leader of Opposition (LOP) in the Delhi Assembly, Vijender Gupta said the BJP “doesn’t support” the court’s ruling. He also demanded that like the Center, the Delhi Government should also intervene in the matter in the apex court.

In response to the ongoing nationwide protest, BSP Chief Mayawati said, “Anti-social elements were sent to cause violence during the protests resulting in death of some people and damage to public property”

Congress President, Rahul Gandhi, took the opportunity to attack the Prime Minister. He raised the point of increase in the atrocities against the lower castes. Thus, he openly supports the protest.

“One can understand if people protest, but why is Opposition (Congress) playing politics? Parties like Congress who did not give Bharat Ratna to BR Ambedkar, and are now acting like his followers,” said Ramvilas Paswan in response to Rahul Gandh’s tweet.

The Center filed a review petition in the Supreme Court over the judgement as it ‘appears’ to dilute certain stringent provisions in the SC/ST Act.

What the Crime Data Suggests?

Atrocities against SCs and STs increased by 5.5 and 4.7% respectively. Uttar Pradesh (25.6%), Bihar (14%) and Rajasthan (12.6%) accounted for more than 50% cases for atrocities against SCs (Read Also: NCRB Releases Its Data). The figure which stood at 38,670 in 2015 for SCs rose to 40,801 in 2016. In the case of STs, the number saw an increase of 4.7% and cases increased to 6,568 in 2016.

The data also showed that though the chargesheeting rate was 77% but the conviction rate was mere 15.4%.

All these figures indicate that due to its weak implication, the conviction rate is very low and the crimes are increasing against them day by day.

Joining the Dots and Moving Forward

The protest took violent turn as they were not getting proper attention. They were, unfortunately, correct. Now every major political party is coming to help them. The narcissist government somehow found the courage to do something better than resting. They filed for the review.

The intention of the Supreme Court was to decrease the misuse of the law and thus protect the innocents. The ruling does not resonate with the data that National Crime Records Bureau released. The problem was not in the law but was in the implementation part.

What do you think?

Written by Sugat Srivastava

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